In A Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware
Someone’s getting murdered.
In a dark, dark wood
Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.
There was a dark, dark house
Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?
And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room
But something goes wrong. Very wrong.
And in the dark, dark room….
Some things can’t stay secret for ever.
Thanks to Harvill Secker for my review copy which I received through Netgalley
A male blogger reviewing a Hen Night book. Tricky! I asked my wife about her Hen Nights (plural). Great fun apparently (though I do recall picking broken glass from the soles of her feet) but seemingly it can be awkward bringing random strangers together who have little in common – other than the fact they all know the bride.
Between finishing In A Dark, Dark Wood and writing this review I also saw a comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe*. He had been a barman for many years and had an interesting view on group dynamics. He believed that Stag Parties have an Alpha who the group will blindly follow – Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Hen Parties he compared to Game Of Thrones, anyone can betray anyone else in the blink of an eye.
In a Dark, Dark Wood did read just like he described. A Hen Party where you do not feel any alliance is truly believable and (through clever use of jumping the reader forward in time to events after the hen weekend) we know that something has gone very, very wrong.
The lead voice in the story is that of Nora, a writer who lives a private and quiet life. Out of the blue she receives an invitation to a hen party for one of her oldest friends. However, she has not seen this friend for many years and the invitation is very unexpected. Persuaded by a mutual friend from their University days (who also has an invitation) Nora agrees to travel to a remote area of Northumberland in deep, dark Autumn to spend the weekend in the company of strangers. This may not be the best decision she makes all year!
The remote setting and the oddly assembled cast of characters was very reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel ripped forward into a 21st Century setting. You know that the ‘bad guy’ is likely to be one of the guests (but perhaps not) and you know that the ‘nice’ people are most at risk (unless the irritating one is). Beautifully complicated dynamics.
It was impossible for me not to make judgement on each of the characters, some I liked, others I did not and one person irritated the Hell out of me. Knowing that events were soon to spiral out of control I did find myself willing the nicer people to be spared from future horrors.
As the story unfolded (and Nora’s discomfort increased) I became increasingly engrossed in the book. The writing was top quality and I have to applaud Ruth Ware for transporting me from poolside in sunny Ibiza to a bleak Northumberland wood on a chilly and dark night.
In A Dark, Dark Wood is a cracking read and comes highly recommended. Definitely one to add to the shopping basket next time you are in the market for a slick and thrilling tale.
In A Dark, Dark Wood is published by Harvill Secker and is available in Hardback and digital format now.
Ruth Ware is on Twitter: @RuthWareWriter and at www.ruthware.com
*The comedian I have quoted is Chris Betts – he is well worth tracking down at comedy clubs/festivals. He also collects graffiti from toilet walls.